Left: Photographed by Schaun Champion; Right: Courtesy Mecca Woods
I’ve always been a fan of astrology. I don’t exactly remember when I learned that I was a Sagittarius, but I have flashes of memories of me as a kid in the public library and the excitement I felt anytime I came across anything that could tell me more about my zodiac sign. Although I wouldn’t begin studying astrology seriously until I was well into my 30s, I was always fascinated by how astrology gave us a language based on the stars to help us define life down here on earth.
When I first began exploring the field, I never thought that I would be able to turn my interest in astrology into a full-on career, and a lot of this had to do with the stigma around astrology. It’s long been considered a pseudoscience by skeptics, and within certain religious spheres within the Black community, it’s seen as a tool for dark forces rather than the art form and tool for self-development it is. Another reason: There weren’t many BIPOC (that I knew of) in the field. This was a glaring issue when I began training as a professional astrologer. Many of the books, research, lectures, history, etc. that became the foundation for my studies were written by white astrologers.
Two of the few exceptions are Black Sun Signs and Black Love Signs, by Thelma Balfour, published in 1996 and 1999. These books marked the first time I had ever come across anything astrology-related that was written by someone like me, with someone like me in mind.
I remember being introduced to Ms. Balfour’s books by a friend of mine who lived around the corner from me. We were around 19 or 20 and spent hours poring over the pages, talking about the boys we had crushes on and whether their zodiac signs were compatible with ours. We read the sections on our signs aloud to each other, cackling in agreement at the parts that had her, a Taurus, and me, a Sagittarius, down to a T. Although I had gotten to a point where I was reading my horoscopes religiously in every newspaper and magazine that carried them, it wasn’t until I came across her books that astrology became relatable for me.
Fast-forward 18 years or so and I’m a professional astrologer working on my first book, Astrology for Happiness and Success. I knew there had been a dearth of mainstream astrology books published by Black people, let alone Black astrologers. However, what I didn’t know was that my book would be the first mainstream astrology book to be published by a Black woman astrologer in more than a decade.
Some history: Through astrologer and researcher (and my friend!) Demetrius Bagley’s work in supporting, researching, and documenting the contributions of BIPOC astrologers to the field, I’ve learned that mainstream astrology books by Black authors have been few and far between. In 1996, Soul Vibrations: Astrology for African Americans, by George Davis and Gilda Matthews, was quite possibly the first astrology book written by Black authors for Black readers, backed by a large publishing company. Prior to that, in 1995, Signs of Mental Illness: An Astrological and Psychiatric Breakthrough, by Dr. Mitchell E. Gibson, was released by Llewellyn Worldwide, one of the largest and oldest New Age publishers in North America. In April 1996, Balfour’s Black Sun Signs became the first book written by a Black woman astrologer to be released by one of the five biggest publishing houses, followed by Black Love Signs in 1999. That same year, Llewellyn released Basil Fearrington’s The New Way to Learn Astrology.
Then it was a five-year wait until Astrology Uncut: A Street-Smart Guide to the Stars, written by journalists Rob Marriott and Sonya Magett, was published in 2004. And then…mainstream publishers basically stopped releasing astrology books by Black authors. (Note, although the writers of both Soul Vibrations and Astrology Uncut are Black, it’s unclear—and quite possibly unlikely—if any of them were professional astrologers. It’s also hard to tell how many Black astrologers have released self-published or small-press titles over the past 20 years or so, because there isn’t much documentation that’s publicly available.)
When Astrology for Happiness and Success was published in 2018, I not only found myself breaking barriers as the first Black woman astrologer to be published by a mainstream publisher after a nearly 15-year gap, but I was also the first Black woman astrologer to write an astrology book for a more general audience. I know that I could not be where I am without my predecessors, and I attribute the work of the Black astrologers who came before me to making astrology relatable and my career possible. I also realize the significance of publishing books tailored specifically to the Black community.
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Had Black astrologers like Thelma Balfour not made space for themselves in a predominately white field, I probably would not have found the courage (let alone the interest) to make a space for myself too. I was drawn to astrology out of a burning curiosity to learn about myself and how I could create the life I wanted. I became an astrologer because I wanted to help others tap into their own power and use it to create the lives they wanted. Although I didn’t take a direct or linear path to where I am today, knowing that there were Black people before me laying the groundwork has been validating.
I’d like to think that I’m doing my part to make astrology relatable and accessible for people like me, although at the same time, I also want people outside of the Black community to be able to see themselves represented in my work. I think about this often as someone who grew up Black in America, as someone who knew at an incredibly young age that she always wanted to be a writer. While Blackness in America is an experience unto itself, it’s still an American experience. While being Black—period—is an experience unto itself, it’s still a human experience.
As an astrologer, my work is all about translating the human experience through the lens of the cosmos. And to me, this is why a nearly 15-year gap in mainstream books being published by Black astrologers is unacceptable. While I’m happy to report that, besides my own Cosmic Coloring Books series, there have been a handful of books by Black astrologers published since my book was released (like Aquarius, by Taylor Moon, and Pisces, by Shakirah Tabourn, part of a 12-book series dedicated to each sign of the zodiac), it’s not enough.
The publishing industry can—and must—do better. My hope is that as more Black and marginalized people continue to enter the field of astrology, it will continue to increase the demand for more books by us, for us, and for everyone else too.
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